Friday, December 9, 2016

What Really Motivates Us; What Really Motivates our Kids?

A few years ago I wrote a summary about Daniel Pink's findings on motivation. I highly recommend spending a few minutes taking a look at the RSA Animate YouTube video:

I see this as even more relevant in our discussions and direction today about this whole concept of personalized learning and student achievement. The video challenges the "why" behind what schools do today, how we organize and approach our classrooms, how we attempt to implement teaching and learning, and what we have students do within and outside the school day to set them up for learning and success. Daniel Pink's findings create an opportunity to filter everything we do in light of the three key areas that motivate people: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

Autonomy: Our desire to be self directed in our lives. That tells us that if we want true engagement in our work and in our learning,we have to be doing more complicated and more sophisticated "stuff."  We measure our curriculum and our approach to both the types of things we have kids know and do, and our expectation to such at higher levels. Does our curriculum, our planning, our expectations and our results match up to this? The big question here is are we afraid to let go, allow our students to try things, take risks and even fail? Our Einstein Hour approaches this concept.

Mastery: He defines this as the urge to get better at "stuff." He gives great examples of how people will go out of their way even without pay to get good at playing an instrument and even work for free to do highly technical things like create open source software material (free software that is now available world wide that is operating millions of servers). We can liken this to how students can get into hobbies, music, technology and video games - everyone is rewarded as they get better and better at something!

We can compare this to the types of opportunities we provide our kids to learn based on their own interests, pace and mastery. Do we develop lessons that provide choice, that provide relevant and timely feedback to determine their learning and mastery? Is what we are offering our students challenging, interesting and provides opportunities for them to contribute to getting better?

Purpose: All of us are more motivated especially when we recognize what we are doing has a more transcendent purpose. He posits and infers things are not always good if we disconnect learning from the purpose motive. This is when people are not inclined to do great things and the environment are not inspiring places to learn and work. He mentions that people are "purpose maximizers."

The challenge for all of us is, do we connect what we have students know and do to purpose, the big idea and to what Jim Collins calls BHAGS? (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Is student learning about their personal lives, their desire to break limits and does it play into their desire to achieve? Do we challenge our kids to be the first high school graduates, college graduates, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. in their families. Do we succeed in connecting their learning to their dreams, goals and pursuits to make the world a better place for others and the world around them?
As you can see these are great guideposts associated with questions that will evoke high standards and the right types of results for each and every CUSD student.